The morning began early- 4am alarm followed by nervous munching of bagel with PB that never fails to taste like cardboard on race day. My darling hubby was sweet enough to get up and head to the start with me so we zombied our way out to the cab. In an annoying twist of NYC fate, we couldn't exit the West side highway at 79th (mental note: get off at 96th next year) because of the triathlon (I knew it was a possibility) so we had to fight the traffic around 56th st and turn and go uptown with all of the other confused cars because the WSH northbound was shut down for the race. Eeeeeeeek, sitting in traffic mere blocks from where I needed to be was making me anxious and finally I blurted out "let us out up here!" and we were on our way.
After a nearly 1/2 mi barefoot run to the transition area, I popped on my helmet, bike shoes and stuffed an extra bike tube and some GU chomps into my pockets and I was off.
The NYC Tri crew gives everyone every scary details about the bike including phrases like "the bike route contains 5 VERY TECHNICAL turns and a steep hill at the start" which I can only imagine are to frighten the riders into being extra careful. On one hand I'm really glad they say that so people are prepared and (hopefully) hyper vigilant about the turns, but on the other hand- way to freak me out! Sheesh. The bike began on a narrow, busy path with the finished swimmers on one side and beginning bikers on the other, but everyone was moving slowly and cautiously. The first turn is maybe 100 degrees and starts with a mild uphill that gets steeper as you go along, but I'd left my bike in a nice, easy gear so I cruised up the hill with no problems. The next few turns were simple and before I knew it we were on the WSH and we were flying! I had prepared myself for a bigger crowd, but because of our early start the only spots that I encountered crowds was on the hills. I have found that being a strong hill runner does in fact translate a bit to being a strong hill cyclist and I worked somewhat hard, but really wasn't slowed down by the hills. My favorite parts were riding past my neighborhood (and next to my running path along the greenway!), through the tolls and across the Henry Hudson Bridge (how fun is it to RIDE through the toll booth?!). It was exhilarating and I enjoyed every minute of it, despite keeping up a solid effort. Somewhere just before the turnaround on Gun Hill Rd in the Bronx, a stray thought wandered into my head, "this race isn't nearly long enough, I can't believe we're about to turn around already!" Where did THAT come from? As expected, I managed a decent but not stellar bike portion and finished the 25 miles in 1:30, an avg speed of 16.4mph. I'd thought it was faster, but I think the entering and exiting of transition area was so slow that it brought me down, but whatever. 1:30 was my exact A-goal and I'm more than happy with it!
In T2 (which I've dubbed "the warzone") I did a quick shoe change while overhearing one woman explain to another that her crap was on the wrong side of the rack. The accused woman was clueless and said "yeah, but someone turned my bike around overnight" and another explained to her that "yes, that is because you had it facing the wrong way." It was all in a very friendly "I'm trying to help you understand this" manner and I got a good chuckle out of it between bites of PB&J and putting my visor on. I had experienced nothing but friendly, helpful chatter all day... I don't care what they say about triathletes, they're a nice bunch.
The initial 1/2 mile or so of the run was uphill, much like the bike. While it sucks that the run has to start uphill when you're already a little unsteady on your feet, that's just the only way out of Riverside park. I expected to feel like lead for the first 5 mins or so as I have in the past on brick runs, but instead I felt GOOD. Like, really good. It was tough, don't get me wrong but I wasn't feeling tight or heavy or like someone had put cement in my shoes like I did at Harriman. I did a "systems check" and felt that I'd hydrated really well on the bike, the PB&J + banana sandwich was making its way down smoothly and my legs were ready to move. It was almost like my legs were running away from me for most of the run. I was super excited going along 72nd St because of the crowds, but also because I knew that Elyssa and Hubs were waiting for me by CPW. I noticed that I had forgotten to take the GU chomps out of my shorts and I'd also forgotten to take the extra bike tube out of my pocket, so I tossed the chomps into a trashcan and held the tube until I saw E and hubs. They didn't understand why I had it and mistakenly thought it was an indication that I'd gotten a flat on the ride. Nope, just a Team Dork moment. I trotted past them and into the park where I proceeded to hunt down and pass a ton of people. At the risk of sounding completely self-absorbed, I passed EVERYONE that I encountered on the run. There was one elite looking dude that blew past me just after we entered the park, but otherwise I just chugged along smiling and practically dancing through the miles. It was HOT, hot, HOT so I stopped at every water station along the way and drank a cup of water and poured another cup over my head and body. The first 3 miles were in the shade, but as we turned the corner at the very top of the park and the sun began to beat down on me, it got hot. I never felt overheated or uncomfortably hot though, thanks to being soaked from cups of water and hoses along the way. I trotted along at an unbelievable 7:24 avg pace and cranked out the final mile at something like 7:14. To be honest, I don't know how I did it! I didn't look down at my watch more than twice and just pushed as hard as I could because I was so excited and happy because I knew I was going to make my goal time even if I slowed significantly. As I crossed the finish and looked down at my run time, I was shocked to realized that not only did I destroy my goal time for the tri (sub-3) but I'd PRed in the run by at least 2 minutes. The grins associated with that still haven't faded. It turns out I was 6th in my age group on the run and 197th overall.
As I floated through the crowded finish area with my ice-cold Toyota towel around my neck I collected my medal, some water, and other misc items like an orange and my checked bag from the start. As luck would have it, while collecting my checked bag the guy next to me had also grabbed too much water and fruit and was trying to free up a hand by sticking his banana into his tri shorts. I looked at him with wide eyes and an "I can't believe this is happening" look on my face and laughed. I managed to choke out "Is that I bana..... no, too easy.." before laughing again. He laughed and said "Oh we're beyond that at this point..." Ahh, a classic moment that was meant for my 8th grader sense of humor.
With a spring in my step I walked out to meet with E and hubs even though we hadn't established a meeting spot. Oops. Luckily for us, the race had set up signs indicating "Family reunion letters A-C" etc and we easily found each other. I probably chattered at them incoherently for a while before we went off to Popover cafe to devour some brunch. It was the ideal ending to a perfect morning.
The takeaway from Sunday- I love triathlons and am pretty durned good at them. Call it beginner's luck, but nothing went wrong and I actually feel great today (yesterday I was sore though) and I can't wait for the next tri. I really loved every minute of it and I enjoyed the people and atmosphere that accompanied the entire day. Thank you to everyone who supported me along the way- special shout outs to my hubby who put up with training and a 4am wakeup, Elyssa who is always there with advice and support and to Peter who generously gave me tidbits of advice that really made a huge difference in how smoothly my day went. And with that, my Oscar acceptance speech is over. ;)